They are strong and they are resilient. They are adaptable. They are well-travelled and fiercely patriotic. They are bright, inquisitive and eager to help out, whether that is at home or in their communities. They have advantages many kids do not: parents with jobs and steady incomes, health care, safe housing, good education systems and access to early intervention programs.
But they are also children, and they are navigating a new and strange world of school and sports, bullies and gossip, first boyfriends and girlfriends, and puberty and hormones. Growing up is hard. It is scary. It is easy for kids to lose their way. And life can become harder and scarier when kids have to move every three years or when their parents miss portions of their childhoods because they are regularly deployed. And it becomes twice as hard when those parents come home changed from post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injuries.
While most Army kids tend to handle one or two deployments well, and as a whole are doing great, experts say the trouble can start with repeated, back-to-back deployments.
“Kids often experience more anxiety,” said Dr. Michael Faran, a psychiatrist, retired colonel and chief of the Child, Adolescent and Family Behavioral Health Office, or CAFBHO, at Army Medical Command, explaining that while there is not a lot of data, some studies suggest about 30 percent of children will have difficulties as a result of deployment. “There’s an increase in depression and anxiety. There can be a decrease in academic performance. In some adolescents, there’s an increase in use of drugs and alcohol. And there has been more gang activity reported in some teens.”